The state will appeal a federal judge’s ruling that permanently barred Michigan from enforcing a straight-ticket voting ban. Secretary of State Ruth Johnson filed a notice of appeal Monday morning, nearly two weeks after Detroit U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain said the state’s GOP-led legislature “intentionally discriminated against African Americans” by banning straight-ticket voting. The state will be filing an emergency motion for stay alongside the appeal, Secretary of State spokesman Fred Woodhams said. “The state is confident that it will succeed on the merits of the appeal as there is no Fourteenth Amendment violation, no violation of the Voting Rights Act and plaintiffs lack standing to bring this claim,” he said in an email.
Attorney General Bill Schuette, who is running for governor in November, is defending Johnson in the lawsuit. The Midland Republican has “the responsibility to defend state law and that’s exactly what we are doing,” spokeswoman Andrea Bitely said in an email.
The state Legislature voted in December 2015 to eliminate straight-ticket voting, arguing the elimination would encourage more informed voting, increase the possibility that a third party could win election, and decrease the likelihood that voters would miss nonpartisan portions of the ballot. Across the country, 40 other states no longer offer the option.
Opponents filed a lawsuit opposing the legislature’s ban in May 2016 on behalf of three Michigan voters and the state chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute.